Andre Russell scored a 17-ball 48 before taking two wickets. PHOTO BCCI
Andre Russell scored a 17-ball 48 before taking two wickets. PHOTO BCCI

Kolkata made it two wins in two games in 2019 Indian T20 League on the back of a powerful batting display led by the young Nitish Rana, who scored 63 off 34 balls, and later by Andre Russell’s belligerent 17-ball 48 that helped Kolkata post 218/4 at the Eden Gardens against Punjab on Wednesday. (FOLLOW: Kolkata vs Punjab, Match 6)

Punjab fought hard with Mayank Agarwal scoring his first half-century in the league since 2015 and David Miller remaining unbeaten on 59 off 40 balls, but fell short by 28 runs.

Even though Eden Gardens is a preferred venue when it comes to run chases, it was too tall an order for the Ravichandran Ashwin-led side, who lost KL Rahul for one and Chris Gayle for 20 inside the powerplay overs after opting to chase.  

Miller was dropped by Lockie Ferguson off Kuldeep Yadav when he was on 16 at deep fine leg and then Rinku Singh grassed a tough chance at square leg off Agarwal on 55 in the 15th over, but some tidy bowling by Yadav and Russell in the middle overs kept a check on the Punjab run-rate.

On the contrary, it was in the middle overs where Kolkata took the advantage as Rana and Robin Uthappa ransacked 48 runs in just three overs – between the 12th and 15th. The duo’s overall association yielded 110 runs off just 66 balls, before Russell took apart Mohammed Shami and Andrew Tye with eight consecutive boundary hits in the death overs. Tye’s third over – 18th of the Kolkata innings went for 22 runs – while the next over bowled by Shami was taken for 25 as Kolkata posted their highest-ever total at home in the league’s history.

The biggest turning point of the game proved to be minutest of the details Shami cleaned up Russell for just three, but it was no-ball as the in-field had just three players inside the circle, the blame for which was taken by Ashwin later after the match.  

That assault Russell came after Sunil Narine (24 off nine) and Chris Lynn (10 off 10) had provided Kolkata a blazing start with the West Indian bludgeoning 25 runs off Indian T20 League debutant Varun Chakravarthy – Punjab’s INR 8.4 crore buy. Narine was removed by Punjab’s second debutant, Hardus Viljoen, while Lynn fell to Shami. However, From 42/2 in 4 overs, Kolkata raced to 142 in 14 overs on the back of Rana and Uthappa’s assault.

Punjab, who made four changes to their side, were guilty of bowling too wide as both Rana and Uthappa capitalised with aplomb. Rana channelled his state teammate Rishabh Pant’s aggressive approach launching mighty heaves across the cow corner and over extra cover to take seven sixes and four fours.

Uthappa was sedate in comparison to his two teammates as he notched up his 24th fifty of the league and remained unbeaten on 67 off 50 balls.

Punjab skipper Ashwin, who was miserly against Rajasthan, went wicketless conceding 47 runs in his four overs while Shami ended with 4-0-44-1. Tye conceded 30 runs in his last two overs after his first spell read 2-0-7-0. Mystery spinner Chakravarthy redeemed himself conceding just ten runs in his next two overs.

In chase, Gayle started well with a four and a six of Prasidh Krishna, but Rahul endured his second low score in as many games, falling to Ferguson in the second over. Agarwal started well with three fours off Krishna in one over, but Russell, introduced in the powerplay overs, got the big fish Gayle off his second delivery of his first over with a short pitch delivery that cramped the Jamaican for room and the top edge was taken by Krishna at mid-on, avoiding a collision with Yadav.

Sarfraz Khan became Russell’s second victim of the night as he departed for 13 after being foxed by a slower one from the West Indian. Miller, in for Nicolas Pooran, started to rebuild for Punjab as Agarwal and the hard-hitting South African added 74 runs for the fourth wicket. Agarwal’s wicket – for 58 – cleaned up by Piyush Chawla – signalled the end of things for Punjab.

That wicket was the reward of sustained pressure from Russell and Yadav in the middle overs that yielded just 53 runs in seven overs. Mandeep Singh chanced his arms around to remain unbeaten on 33 off 15 balls, but couldn’t take his team home.  

Brief Scores: Kolkata 218/4 (Robin Uthappa 67*, Nitish Rana 63; Varun Chakravarthy 1/35) beat Punjab 190/4 (Mayank Agarwal 58; Andre Russell 2/21) by 28 runs